Conveying the greatness of salvation is one of Paul’s major aims in his epistle to the Ephesians, and one way he accomplishes this purpose is by reminding his Gentile readers of the darkness of their life before Christ. Before the first advent of Jesus, Gentile readers were far away from God, strangers to the covenants of promise delivered to Abraham and the Jews (Eph. 2:11–12). Indeed, first-century Gentiles lived without hope, as archaeological evidence regularly confirms. We have found countless epigraphs from the period in which Paul wrote Ephesians, and the vast majority of these inscriptions on tombstones and other grave markers testify that ancient Greeks and Romans had no real hope of life after death.
In Jesus, however, everything changed. “The blood of Christ” brought firstcentury Gentiles who trusted in the Savior from a position far outside the boundaries of Israel into a right relationship with the one true Lord of all. According to Psalm 148:14, the Israelites among whom God dwelt under the old covenant were known as those “near” to the Creator; thus, Paul’s description of his readers as near to the Lord is but another way of saying that Gentiles who trust in the Messiah enjoy the same nearness to God that faithful old covenant Israelites experienced. Of course, this benefit did not extend to the first-century Gentile Christian readers of Ephesians alone, but is a privilege that belongs to all throughout the ages who repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone. Once we were far off, but now we are brought near to the Father in Christ Jesus our Lord (Acts 2:37–39).
What can reconcile those of us who were once outside of the covenants of promise to the most holy God? Nothing less than the sacrifice of the Son of God Himself. God paid the highest price to secure a people for Himself, sending His one and only Son to live a perfect life and die a dishonorable death so that His wrath would be satisfied and His grace extended to sinners. Rather than justly crush us, our Father showed great love in crushing His Son in place of His people so that all who trust Jesus might be His friends, not His enemies (John 3:16; James 2:23). John Calvin writes, “The blood of Christ has taken away the enmity which existed between [us] and God, and from being enemies hath made [us] sons.”